Kagan's Vapid and Hollow Charade
Few events in government are as consciously theatrical as a Supreme Court confirmation. The senators are grandly arrayed in the front of the room, lacking only togas to convey their sense of austere dignity.
The audience is huddled in the rear, and between them is the nominee, sitting at a small desk — facing a motley crew of crouched photographers — alone, though carefully rehearsed.
Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, who years ago called such hearings "a vapid and hollow charade," helped ensure they were exactly that this week.
She also once said of the hearings that a "repetition of platitudes has replaced discussion of viewpoints" and "such hearings serve little educative function, except perhaps to reinforce lessons of cynicism that citizens often glean from government."
So what are we to make of her opening statement, one that could have served as an entry for an American Legion high school essay contest?
"I will make no pledges this week other than this one," Kagan said, "that if confirmed, I will remember and abide by all these lessons: I will listen hard, to every party before the court and to each of my colleagues. I will work hard. And I will do my best to consider every case impartially, modestly, with commitment to principle and in accordance with law."
Vapid? A repetition of platitudes? Naw.
And how about the senators, who could have done some real fact-finding instead of reinforcing "lessons of cynicism"? They chose reinforcing cynicism.
Republican Jeff Sessions of Alabama danced around the ring with Kagan over military recruiting at Harvard (where students are apparently falling all over themselves to get into uniform), but in the end he didn't lay a glove on her, being reduced to saying her statements were "in variance with reality" without having really proved it.
Sessions was followed by grocery store heir Herb Kohl, Democrat of Wisconsin, whose first question was — and I am not making this up — "Please tell us why you want to serve on the Supreme Court and what excites you about the job."
OK, show of hands: Did he come up with that himself, or did his staff have to write it for him?
One was left wondering if the public would not be better served by forcing nominees to appear on "Meet the Press," "Face the Nation" and "This Week" — or at the very least "Larry King Live" and "The View" — instead of going through the current process?
Would we really learn less? Could we possibly learn less?
Republican Orrin Hatch of Utah began his questioning by saying to Kagan, "You're doing well" and then asked her to answer his questions "yes or no to the extent you can." For the next half hour, she answered not a single question "yes" or "no."
After one extended exchange, Hatch said, "We have to have a little back-and-forth every once in a while otherwise this place would be as boring as hell."
It was anyway, though the bizarre ramblings of lame duck Democrat (sort of) Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania did have its moments, though nothing even close to the pubic hair on the Coke can weirdness of the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings in 1991.
According to a Los Angeles Times profile of Kagan, some of her former colleagues at the Harvard Law School said she could be "warm, obsequious, charming, intimidating and sometimes temperamental."
Kagan did not show most of those qualities to the senators (though she did make a funny remark about probably being in a Chinese restaurant on Christmas Day, "like all Jews").
Instead, she chose the qualities she has rehearsed for weeks: cool, calm and safe.
To find out more about Roger Simon, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2010 CREATORS.COM